Pulp Pleasures: Eando Binder

Link - article by Avi Abrams

Guilty Pleasure: Reading Competent, Spectacular Science Fiction in Hard-to-Find Pulps
Part 1 - Eando Binder

Exceptional quality of adventure and sense-of-wonder 1930s-1940s science fiction from brothers Earl Binder and Otto Binder writing as Eando Binder. They also used pen-names: John Coleridge, Gordon Giles, Will Garth

(top left: original unknown; bottom left: writer Otto Binder)

The Rare & the Beautiful... obscure issues of pulp magazines, full of fantastic, engrossing fiction... enter the world of collectible pulps: read our previous issues on DRB SF site: Rare Pulps, Issue 1 and Issue 2.


Eando Binder
"The Black Comet"
(as John Coleridge)
(Mad Moor Series)
© Science Fiction, Jun 1939
--/ fourth place space sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ emotion award
--/ rare find

This story has not been reprinted since its appearance in a pulp - nor any of the stories about the legendary space explorer Mad Moor. And this is a shame, because this series is a perfect example of wide-eyed, enthusiastic, sense-of-wonder fiction so beloved by fans in the 1930s-1940s. This particular installment is somewhat short on the plot and ends quite abruptly, but where it truly shines is describing great space liners, cool-cat space pilots, and conveying the romance and dangers of no-holds-barred (wild west style) space exploration - it even includes a shockingly violent stand-off with hordes of Martians, machine-gunning them to oblivion a la Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch" (1969). Other than that crazy episode, it's a beautiful, smoothly told adventure story - full of excitement and the Glory of the Spaceways!


Eando Binder
"Five Steps To Tomorrow" (nv)

© Startling Stories, Jul 1940
novel: Curtis Books, 1971
--/ cool sf novel
--/ wonder award
--/ adventure award

Here the Binder Brothers take the Alexander Dumas' classic "The Count of Monte Cristo" plot and set it in space (featuring a huge prison satellite and enough intrigues to feed a crazed imagination of, say, a Cold-War era KGB counter-espionage unit). The "Monte Cristo in Space" plot was later re-used by other science fiction writers, most notably by Alfred Bester in his "Tiger, Tiger". "Five Steps To Tomorrow" is an impressive effort for 1940, but it ultimately failed to grab me, or stay with me for any significant time. Oh well. My opinion of Binder remains high. He is definitely the "pulp king" of short stories, but perhaps the longer form was somewhat of a challenge to him (or to "them", to be exact)...


Eando Binder
"Lost in Alien Dimensions"

(Cosmos: round-robin series)
© Science Fiction Digest, Jul 1932
Fantasy Magazine, Dec 1934
Perry Rhodan, Ace Books
--/ fourth place space sf series
--/ wonder award
--/ awesome scale
--/ rare find

Unreal... This is simply the most unique event in history of science fiction, the collaboration between the brightest stars in the field, some at the beginning of their career, some at the peak of their powers. The list of writers is a shining "all-star" galaxy in itself. The fiction is... well, it's certainly big-scale, brimming with grand conflict, ridiculous science, unpronounceable names and places, and more BANG that you ever encountered between soft book covers - testing, in fact, the limits of reader's imagination and believability. Impossibly hard to find today, "Cosmos" spanned the issues of "Science Fiction Digest", and then "Fantasy Magazine" (the installments were not printed in the issues themselves but as a separately-bound supplements).

Personally I liked the "Last Poet" part of the serial and the crazy, absolutely delirious space battle extravaganza contributed by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. A multi-dimensional "Wrongness of Space" anomaly attacks our system; a bunch of alien menaces and mad scientists pop out of every wrinkle of time and space, flying around (some may say chaotically) and driving the serial to its bang-up finish - good old Edmond Hamilton destroying planets Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus with an atomic disintegrator ray in his "Armageddon in Space". In other words, "The Cosmos" series is well worth searching out, it's a monumental literary artifact from the "wonder pulps" era, quite enjoyable even to this day.


Eando Binder
"The Robot Aliens"
© Wonder Stories, Feb 1935
Wonder Story Annual, 1950
--/ cool sf novella
--/ wonder award
--/ rare find

A major novella describing the invasion of "robot aliens" of the title, with the subsequent battles being waged in cities and throughout the countryside. Similar to the "War of the Worlds", this story is just one of many, many such stories about a straightforward (even primitive) Menace from the Skies. Such type of story was eventually brought to its ultimate level of boredom by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle in their "Footfall" - and I figure that the only way to improve on this sub-genre would be to show several such invasions happening at once, with humans merely getting in the way or even completely ignored (as, for example, in 1973 novella "Chains of the Sea" by Gardner Dozois), unaware that aliens are actually trying to wrestle the Earth from its true owners... hamsters, or maybe multi-level marketers :)

By the way, I found a curious info, that "the first use of the word "robot" in the United States was probably in Eando Binder's 1935 story, "The Robot Aliens"... which may also be the first story in which the word "alien" is used to describe an extraterrestrial." I'm not sure if it's true, but this novella certainly created a stir when it appeared, and even earned a reprint.


Eando Binder
"Set Your Course by the Stars"
© Astounding Stories, May 1935
--/ cool sf story
--/ idea award
--/ rare find

This is a strange story based on a simple "what if" premise, played out between two space explorers: what if there was no diffusion of light in open space, and light from the infinite Universe could effortlessly add up before reaching our eyes? In this story the space pilot explains why he could not set course by the stars: the space around him was WHITE from a lot more stars than anybody expected... Remember the vision of "inverted" star-fields that astronaut Dave Bowman sees at the end of "2001: A Space Odyssey"? Black stars strewn over white space? Well, it seems that Earl and Otto Binder brothers beat Arthur Clarke to such a spectacular sight by 30 years at least.

According to the story, this crazy notion of "white space" could prove why our Universe is not eternal or infinite, because if that was true, then the combined light from all infinite and eternal stars would hit us from the heavens, and there could be no darkness. Maybe in some alternative world, with different set of physics... Certainly not in our case, but that fact should not prevent you from enjoying this simple "what-if" thought-variant story (perhaps a precursor to Isaac Asimov's classic "Nightfall"?).


Eando Binder
"Where Eternity Ends" (nv)
© 1939, Science Fiction, June
--/ fourth place space sf novella
--/ wonder award
--/ emotion award
--/ awesome scale
--/ romance award
--/ rare find

I can share the enthusiasm of early sci-fi fans Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury who wrote letters to Charles Hornig, the editor of this pulp, saying how they appreciated the raw excitement and wonder that this magazine brought to science fiction market of the times! This novel is everything that "sense-of-wonder" space adventure yarn can be - written in spare and concise prose (almost minimalist in style; "Kraftwerk" German electronic music would be a perfect soundtrack for it) and bursting with stupendous ideas and seriously mind-boggling special effects.

This is a Captain Future novel that Edmond Hamilton never written; a "Lost in Space" script for the 1930s, done on steroids; a full-speed-ahead storyline which can potentially be turned into something deeply psychedelic and exciting like Gordon R. Dickson's tour-de-force "Time Storm", perhaps? The idea of traveling to the border of space and time (with accompanying bizarre physics and space-time-continuum-disruption effects at the fringes of this anomaly) is obviously preposterous enough to be super-exciting, although it could only occur in some parallel Universe (talking about suspension of disbelief!). But who cares about plausibility, when you have a great cast of characters (including an evil scientist and his lovely daughter), glorious Edmond-Hamilton-style space vistas, crazy plant-like aliens, and beginning of a glorious romance with a beautiful lady: sounds like a perfect pulp adventure recipe to me!

(art by John Harris)




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